Soccer Star Leaves Field For Family

* Brother's Leukemia Relapses, Stauffer Takes Semester Off to Help

Since the moment she first touched a soccer ball, she has been waiting for this season. From the moment she stepped onto the grass of Ohiri Field, she had been dreaming of a golden senior year.

Now, after three years of preparation, Emily Stauffer, one of the best women's soccer players ever to wear a Harvard uniform, had created the perfect template for her senior season.

Not only had she received the highest individual honors in the league, but the two-time All-American and Ivy League Player of the Year had also helped lead her Harvard team to two Ivy League titles and two NCAA appearances. Now as a co-captain, Stauffer was looking for the magic number three to close out her career.

Nothing could have stood in her way. Nothing that is, except her family.

Two years ago, Stauffer's older brother Matt, a varsity soccer player at Williams College, with leukemia. It has been an up-and-down battle ever since, but on June 24, Matt relapsed for the second time, forcing Emily, who is Matt's only bone marrow match, to make a decision-one which she never thought she would have to make.

"I guess not coming back to school this fall was sort of inevitable," Stauffer said. "My family has just been through so much this summer and my brother and I are so close. I have a younger sister in high school who needs someone home with her too, and my parents can't do everything."

Immediately after being diagnosed in August of 1995, Matt began intensive chemotherapy treatment in New York. Originally from New Canaan, Con- ecticut, the Stauffer family began a transient existence as they tirelessly worked to have at least two people by Matt's side at all times.

Unbeknownst to many, Emily was juggling the impossible back in Cambridge. Not only was she dominating the Ivy League soccer world by walking away with her first of two Ivy League Player of the Year and All-American accolades, but she was also trying to balance her schoolwork with daily round-trip flights to New York to be with Matt.

"I was just miserable," Stauffer said. "I couldn't give enough to my family. I love soccer so much and I always wanted to give everything I had to soccer-that's just the way I a.m. At the same time I had this family crisis. I would never ever give [Matt] anything less than I could and there just wasn't enough time in the day-in any day-to take care of everything I wanted to take care of."

Despite donating her bone marrow the summer after her sophomore year, Emily was able to continue her soccer training all the while spending quality time with Matt, who was slowly approaching his second period of remission. When the decision arrived as to whether Emily would return to Harvard for her junior year, Matt had already progressed to the point where he too was making return plans to college.

"Fortunately that summer [before junior year] when he was treated he virtually went in the day school ended and incidently he ended up getting out of the hospital the day I went back to preseason," said Stauffer. "So it was this tight pocket of time where I wasn't pulled and I could give just everything I had to my brother."

Thus with Matt's condition slowly improving, Emily was able to complete her junior year, which included even more soccer highlights. By this point, she had not only clearly established herself as the premier player in the Ivy League, but she was also gaining national recognition. As a finalist for the Missouri Athletic Conference Collegiate Player of the Year, Stauffer had succeeded in bringing Harvard to the national level.

Matt himself also returned to Williams that spring and began training for his own soccer season. But unfortunately it all came crashing down by the end of June when he relapsed for the second time. Emily was called back from New York City where she had been working for the Today Show, and the entire Stauffer family rallied once again around Matt, who was being treated at the Dana Farber Institute in Boston.

Simple drug treatments had little effect, so far the second time that year, Emily donated her bone marrow-this time in July. It was then, however, that she realized her soccer season would have to be put on hold.

"As much as I wanted to come back to school, I just knew that if I did both I could never give as much as I would want to the team or to my brother," said Stauffer. "So naturally my real heart was with my family."

Harvard co-captain Rebe Glass witnessed first-hand Stauffer's bind.

"That had to be one of the hardest decisions," Glass said. "Emily was always concerned and loved the team more than anything.

For two siblings who are so close and for a family whose life has been forever altered, the decision to forego the fall semester was a small sacrifice.

"I think that when you look at what we are going through a semester off of school is really just not a big deal," Stauffer said. "How little to give up to keep your piece of mind and be there for your family and keep the core together so everyone can pull through."

Two weeks ago, after two months in the hospital, Matt returned to the Stauffers' apartment in Boston. There, he is able to spend time recuperating from his chemotherapy in the constant company of his family.

As each day passes, the outlook appears brighter, and both Emily and Matt hope to return to their respective schools come spring. Until then, however, Emily remains a strong figure on the Crimson bench. As a volunteer assistant, she is able to find solace among her friends.

"It's been great to be around here," said Stauffer, glancing towards her teammates who were scattered around OhiriField. "Even this summer, the team has been so supportive, coming over [to visit] and I have been able to get the laughs. It has been the best relief for me."

"Whenever she comes to see the team everyone crowds around her," Glass said. "Even the freshmen have picked up that she is an incredible person."

When you dream of something for so long, it's hard to imagine anything coming in between you and the assumed inevitable. Emily Stauffer's first three years of Harvard soccer were indeed dreamlike.

She could never have imagined what would eventually stop her momentum. But it is at these times when dreams change and the simple things are re-discovered.

"I need him just as much as he needs me and that's the truth of it," said Stauffer.

Emily Stauffer may not cap off her historic career at Harvard this spring, but she will finish.

And her brother will be right by herside